Everything You Need to Know About Chronic Respiratory Conditions

Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash
Photo by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash

According to the World Health Organization, 235 million people suffer from asthma. But this is just one of the many chronic respiratory diseases out there. That means you most likely know someone who suffers from CRD’s (Chronic Respiratory Diseases) or suffer yourself from related conditions. Here is everything you need to know to be more informed to relieve symptoms and avoid respiratory episodes. 

What is a CRD?

CRDs, or Chronic Respiratory Diseases, are incurable but treatable conditions that affect the lung’s airways and other lung structures. The most common are asthma and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder). Asthma results in wheezing and breathlessness as the airways contract to prevent airflow. This is usually the result of allergens or irritants in the air such as pollen, dust, smoke, or strong fumes. 

COPD is the other most common CRD people suffer from. However, this is not just one disease. COPD is an umbrella term that is used to describe a multitude of disorders that result in breathlessness or other limitations to air flow. Some symptoms include difficulty breathing, limited airflow, chronic cough, or excessive mucus production. 

Types of CRDs include:

  • Asthma
  • COPD
  • Chronic Bronchitis 
  • Emphysema 
  • Cystic Fibrosis

What are the causes of CRD?

It is possible to develop chronic pulmonary conditions  from the inhalation of pollutants. For cases such as asthma, most individuals are diagnosed as children but it can be developed at any age. For other conditions such as COPD, Chronic Bronchitis, or Emphysema, these conditions can be brought on by smoking or vaping, exposure to occupational chemicals or dust, or inhaling indoor and outdoor air pollutants. 

To reduce your risk of developing any of these disorders, avoid smoking or vaping and be sure to use the proper protective equipment when introduced to hazardous materials. If you work in an environment that is heavy with chemical fumes or dust, wear a mask to limit your exposure. 

What can you do to avoid a pulmonary “episode?”

The easiest answer to that is to avoid allergens and pollutants. With pulmonary disorders, limiting exposure to smoke or seasonal allergens and wearing proper gear help to prevent the development of disorders. These actions also limit the risk of both asthmatic and COPD related episodes. 

An asthmatic attack is the worsening of asthma symptoms that result in difficulty breathing or obstruction of the lung’s airways. During an attack, the airways can be blocked by the production of thicker mucus and swelling. Some individuals describe the sensation as “someone sitting on their chest.” Using a medically prescribed inhaler is the best way to avoid an attack or stop one in its early stages. 

Attacks related to COPD and other disorders are referred to as “flare ups” or “exacerbations.” Symptoms would include the worsening of current conditions, fatigue, trouble sleeping, or changes in oxygen levels. Exacerbations of COPD conditions can be a result of infection in the lungs as well as inhaling irritating substances. Treatment of infections includes inhalers, steroids, or antibiotics. Similarly to asthma, you can relieve your COPD symptoms with the use of inhalers and avoiding allergens or pollutants. 

When visiting friends or loved ones with a chronic respiratory disease, be sure to avoid smoking, forgo wearing strong scents or perfumes, and wash your hands to avoid spreading germs. For more information on CRDs, refer to the links below. 

Exacerbation of COPD article from the American Thoracic Society

WHO’s Chronic Respiratory Diseases page

Information on Asthma Attacks from the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

Article on Reducing Exposure to Allergens